by Harry Edge

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The introduction by Alec Williams provides lots of handy tips on getting everyone reading!


14. Ideas for reluctant readers

  • Start from where readers are, not where you would like them to be. Once you’ve shown your interest in their present reading choices, they’ll be much more willing to accept recommendations, either from you or from fellow students.
  • Many young people are ‘grazers, rather than diners’ in their reading, and many, lacking reading stamina, will ‘dip into’ books. Start with short stories, poetry, jokes and riddles, urban legends, and other bite-sized reads, then build up.
  • Talk to students; if you are genuine about your need to know their reading tastes, they’ll respond to this - though allow for them sometimes telling you what you want to hear! Floor walking in the library, personal interaction, observation, surveys, suggestion boxes, requests, online polls on the school/library website, etc. - all can tell us what students want from their library.
  • Tempt students with lots of high-profile TV and film tie-ins. In recent years, we’ve had more and more notice of coming movies based on children’s books, so why not start a ‘Read it First!’ campaign, before the movie’s release? Alternatively, replace paperbacks, when you can, with those bearing the film or TV cover - they’ll jump off the shelves!
  • Make connections between reading and other things they do in their lives - gaming and sports, for example - with non-fiction, fiction and magazines.
  • Fun furniture such as large beanbags, and funky sofas can encourage library visitors to stay - and you can leave inviting books nearby.
  • There’s no substitute for ‘waving and raving’ - enthusing about books by librarians, teachers, and other students. Read a dramatic opening, or an exciting episode early in the book, to invite students to finish the book. Personal interaction, book waving and raving, is more important than any number of reviews or computer listings’ (From Young People’s Reading at the End of the Century).
  • Book boxes for tutor time is an area where you can spotlight tempting reads, tailored to students you may know personally.
  • Put ‘Book bite’ posters around school, to lure readers into the library.
  • Humour (Michael Lawrence, The Two Steves, Andy Stanton, Eoin Colfer) is a strong draw.
  • Involve a range of students, including reluctant readers, in exercises like involvement in book selection.
  • Work with graphic novels, comics, manga, and picture books for older readers.
  • And always remember Paul Jennings’s remark: ‘There is no such thing as a reluctant reader; a reluctant reader is simply someone for whom an adult has not yet found a good enough book’. Expand ‘adult’ to ‘another reader’, and you include powerful peer recommendations, too.

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Department for Children, Schools and FamiliesSchool Library AssociationReading for Life

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